11 AUGUST 1855, Page 16



A mArx object of Captain Allen's work is to advance a gigantic project of his own. The work itself contains an account of his journeyings through the Greek Islands. and Syria, a scientific in- vestigation of the phenomena of the Dead Sea and various plans for the improvement of Syria in particular and the world in gene- ral by the creation of an immense ship-canal, or rather ocean, which shall establish a new route to India by way of the valley of the Jordan, the basin of the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea itself.

The Captain's travels seem to have been made at different times and without any definite purpose, except at Jerusalem and some. of the ancient ports on the Mediterranean. Striking views of scenery, pleasant sketches of manners, incidents of travel in wild countries, with indications of the national characteristics both of Greeks and Turks, will be found in the volumes. The whole, however, has a desultory character, which is further increased by the intermix- ture of narrative with speculative discussion, the last mostly bearing on the great project of the author.

As regards magnitude either of conception or result Captain Al- len's plan throws all other projects into the shade. The " velifi- catus Athos" of Xerxes—the communication between the Nile and the Red Sea of Sesostris, if Sesostris were the monarch—the talked-of canal from the Danube to the Euxine—and even the connexion of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans fade into small un- dertakings compared with the scheme of Captain Allen. The re- quisite data, indeed, on which it is founded have yet to be tested; and if the levels of the desert lying to the Eastward of the Isthmus of Suez are not what they ought to be, the Captain's spe- culation would become still more difficult than it is, if not alto- gether impossible. However, the theory is this. From his own observation and a consideration of the foots ob- served by others, Captain Allen comes to the conclusion that the Dead Sea was not produced by the miraculous destruction of the guilty cities, (though he does not doubt the miracle,) but, like many other inland seas on the earth's surface, is the result of na- tural causes. From a point in the Southern depression of the Lebanon range to the head of the Gulf of Akaba, (the Eastern branch of the head of the Red Sea,) there exists for a considerable part of the way a deep valley, hundreds of feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and bordered by lofty hills. In this depres- sion are found Lake Tiberias, the river Jordan, and the Dead Sea. In Captain Allen's opinion, this valley, during the geological era, was continued to the Gulf of Akaba, and formed a great inland ocean. By a rise of the land at the Southern end of this great earth-fissure the communication with the Red Sea was cut off; the heat of the climate dried up the water of the inland ocean by eva- poration, till it was reduced to what the natural drainage of the country would supply ; if, indeed, the Dead Sea is not even now decreasing, spite of the rivers that drain into it. The depression of this valley or basin is so great that the surface of the Dead Sea is estimated to be 1300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The modus operandi is therefore simple. Cut one ship-canal from the head of the Gulf of Akaba to the Southern extremity of the basin of the Dead Sea, and another from the neighbourhood of Mount Carmel on the Mediterranean across the plain of Esdraelon to the break (Captain Allen says the only break) that occurs in the mountain ranges bordering the "fissure." These two canals once finished, the waters of the Mediterranean and Red Sea would rush in, and with a fall of 1300 feet, speedily fill up the valley; when, almost as quickly as the hey presto of a conjuror, you have an in- land ocean, furnishing as short a passage to India as the overland route, and putting an end to the squabbles and difficulties raised by the partisans of Egyptian railways and canals. Difficulties of course there are, natural, social, political; the last two are thus stated and disposed of.

"The execution of a project so vast could not of course be carried out with- out some sacrifices ; but these will be trifling when compared with the mag- nitude of the advantages to be derived in exchange. For instance, a large portion, some 2000 square miles, of the territories belonging to our faithful and gallant ally, his 'Highness the Sultan, will be submerged; together with a city of perhaps some thousands of inhabitants, and some Arab villages. But the territory is useless, being for the most part incapable of cultivation, especially the Southern Ghor, or Wady Arabah. The Northern Ghor, or valley of the Jordan, has some fertility, of which but little advantage is taken by the wandering tribes of Arabs, who capriciously cultivate small portions of it here and there. The city of Tiberias is a filthy heap of ruined buildings, hemmed in between the lake and steep barren mountains, from which a forced removal to a fertile and adjacent neighbourhood would be a blessing to the debased, apathetic, and wretched inhabitants. The villages consist of mud huts, temporary by their nature or of tents, which are in- tentionally so. From all these the occupants derive little advantage, and his Highness less revenue. Their condition, besides, might be immensely improved by the activity and trade which would be stimulated through the navigation of the canal by ships of all nations ; and the Sultan would draw great revenues by transit-dues where he now receives nothing ; and as re- muneration for the loss of this unprofitable territory, some of the finest countries of the world, the early seats of population—namely, those of the Rephaim, the Zuzim, and the Emir!), the trans.Jordanie provinces, so ju- diciously chosen by some tribes of the Jews—would be rendered easy of ac- cess by means of the proposed canal. The Jews would possibly object strongly to the loss of Tiberias which is one of the four holy cities ; but they are strangers from Russia Poland, &c., who have no property in it, and come there in the hope of seeing the Messiah rise out of the lake.

"Thus I think a strong case has been made out of profit for his Highness • The Dead Sea, a New Route to India: with other Fragments and Gleanings in the East. By Captain William Allen, R.N., FRS., Scc.; Author of" The Narrative of the Niger Expedition." In two volumes. YobliAted by Longman and CO. the-Mr—an; and in addition-to these advantages to be derived by-the open. ing of communication by the p posed,ehip-capal, are the facilities it would afford his subjects in miking mage!to Mekka. The Syrian Hadj, which collects all the pilgrims of die East, and has its rendezvous at Dames- cezi,isiiitrombyaerdk ittisomme epreort aetlirdeslorto g,e_opliurthpeasneewintfe;irwdheesiti.ce tihcz *eked: of havingAtoilsome and dangerous, porch of six weeks through Jsositabledese,rt, They would be bronglif back in the same way. The only 1Jjñg to be-adVaneed against this rottlied of performing a 'pilgrimage cwouVi ;Ilitit,ledepilving it of hardehip -and romance, állthO anerit itllibtitineteff;.iiki'thatthe-practice itheif mayiallinto desuetude, which in- deech.bas, Lbelievt,:!alreadyacommenced., ;Tine issaot to be:regpattsd; inas- meekest illakeverY 9.1.kg,:itnproveraent in the :facilities of intercourse, it will be a deathbiRp#.fanatt4e.. "In; like, manner o.'ste,knier might ply betWee'n Serusa—lem andllie head of the neVigulf; fee-the renellti of Christian pilgrims; Who-would thee be able 'totetlifin the' Airteetatdra of the Sordfirr :near their= source at. the foot of llountlibrmonr triatmoitaininated, as it now .is, by the reception of the Iliesomer, ,Tabb'olt, and ether Milan torrents, washing down the sides of the linjins.A03.: ranges bOrdering the (Thor. , As the identical spot where our Aglow. wae.haptiseil by John is unknown,—Gieckit believing in one snot, -and !Aim bein,, at'firtiliv convinced that anotheria'the true place..—other janWfollibfdittigonfportliristilins ate -Obliged to yielifitathe -oritathbilat Of thi Turkish cOnzrnandei of the Iladj; otherwise, if they were IcOnoiated, thero*ould be fis,*any as.there are different sects ; so that the true and only efficacious place ,for, consymniating the grand object of the .ptigrim's life would he as much multiplied as is the True Cross. Therefore tt Would. be, an advantage to all to point out the undeniably pure Jordan,

its source, and to give them the means of going thither."

NotWithstai'ding aif these ..religions-ana*pOlitical reasons in fa- vour of the scheme, we detibt Whethetuthe.Turks, iTewa, and Arabs, would be readily moved Mite faikinr.,-.-still greater difficulties might be found in tlieBitancial part Of the' bitsiness. Dille present stage -of the queStit, - ye think the natural.' eitaitacles are .more.than -all. Of that partf:Of Arabia the Stony. Which..inierVenesilietweert the Deed, Sea beilif end` the Crtilf of Akita'We • know little, indeed nothing for a practical abject like'a ship-castal., Of the valley to .--be 'filled Up by the Wonting of the,ociaiti we do not know enough .t pronounee , _npOn ttlie engineering - feasibility- of the project.. Neither hallfeplain f Edradlon itself been sufficiently -surveyed. The nebeiSity.Of,a thorough survey, indeed, Captain Allen himself

admits. - •

",I proposed in the 'winter 1853=4, to ,go and survey them, [the locali- ties,] if her MajestY's Croiernment would: have ,granfek W. the assistance of an engineer, officer Captain: AA, very handsomely offered to accompany me, provided the 'Government would, pay his bareex- yensea. . My Lords of -the Treasury, however, thotigh .4-appreciating my tap- . fives, did not feel justified in acceding' to my request; , • • . "I presume it was foreseen that the services of every engineer officer - mould soon* he . required ; otherwitie,' itvies ,ii. 'small thing to ask' •of. the :country for agreat national advantage; or at all, events, for an interesting point in physi cal„geogranhyt.for which I was.desirons Of giving my own ser- vices:gratis, The Aifierican provernineet Sent an expedition, at great ex- pense, to survey the-lorden,-Without any ulterior object." Fe* readers, we suppose, but will agree with the Captain in his opinion. „ There is a detailed description, illustrated by plans -and diagrams, of the double port , and tunnel of ancient Seleucie ;- a wonderfld work for its Skill and solidity; though we cannot, agree with Cap- tain Allen in thinking that it would be worth while to lay out money in its restoration and -improvement,' at all events' at present, and on the*tere chance of making 'a trade. The traveller also moots, but perhaps iniperfectly pursues a curious subjedt,—the . effects of denuding mountains Of their forests upon the fertility and consequent. population of the countries Where this process goes on. There is no doubt but that in Greece' and Syria the ancient forests, have been destroyed, and either the soil itself - has become. deterloieted, or 'the- want of moisture consequent upon the loss of wood Inns' tendered the land less productive. There may, however, • be some difficulty in deciding between cause and effect: Has the shortsighted •felling of forests (without replanting) caused the degradation of the people? 'or:did the degradation of the people cause the denudation of the forests? Like most travellers, Captain Allen entertains a good opinion of the Turks, and a very bad one of the Greeks. Their Oppression is nearly if not altogether a thing of the past, 'especially in the islands, where 'they have de facto self-government,---paying for it,

• however. This sketch is from Mytilerie, but the facts are sub- stantially the same in other places. . -

"The population of the island is between 60,000 and 70,000, chiefly Greeks ; of whom 12,000 are in the town. The government is actually in the hands of the Greek inhabitants, as the Turkish Governor is nearly nomi- , nal; and very easily reduced to that condition if he shows any disposition to be obnoxious. For this 'purpose double the amount of taxes required by the government at Stamboul is usually collected, and-one-half is reserved for a

• tund to bribe the Sublime (virtue of the) Porte.

"While they. do not scruple to overtax themselves for this unworthy ob- ject, they will not raise a piastre for the repairs of the town, or for clearing out their harbour, which is capable of gat improvement, inasmuch as it was formerly good, and now it is useless. It only-requires the exercise of a little industry, and a small outlay of capital. I will not venture to affirm that this would restore it to the condition in which it was under ancient Hellenic enterprise, but it might be made available for small coasting- vessels.

"Still, with all the sagacity and aptness for trade evinced by the Greeks of the present day, blind hatred for the Turks paralyzes their exertions when there is any prospect of their participating in the advantages. As in the present case, the restoration of the harbour, although it would be of im- mense-benefit to themselves, would give increased revenue to the.Sultan ; which is quite sufficient to make them forego the far greater advantages, they would derive. Their complaint of oppression from the Turks is unjust, at this time at all events, since they are all but independent. They only give utterance to complaints of traditionatrapacities." Occurrences, _however, which passed tinder the Captain's own observation serve to show that the Turkish power is in a disor- ganized state; being probably weakened by the well-meant at- - t tempts. of the European-Ambassadors-to give a mildsr_ end more cfrilized .character to Turkish rule end punishments. ,.On several occasions our traveller was stopped ..by the dangerous state of the district; owing to gangs_ of robbers. Under a vigorous of the old school this wouldhave been promptly remedied by a fat Of heads. -Under the new • system, authority seems paralyzed; probably it has not the. power of. inflicting that prompt punish. inent which alone can keep order among a semi-barbarous, people. In some places soeiety seems ,passing into anarchy. There also appears to be a sluggishness- for: sustained enterprise about the Turks, which peeps out on common occasions. This is a slightblit pregnant instance. . - • ,There is a mixed population 'ofTurks, Ansairi, -and Christians. [at SWC- Aka* The last greatly predomieate. The land is possessed by the Tvrks ; und there is axnarhed difference prheieeer they undertake to' cultivate it, as 'they are ineaprible of continuous. exertion. ' There is, consequently, a ere- venly character about their farmiatid..gardees; and the soil, not being well • yields a -proportionately small return. The Turk on his own laud is not an well Off as the Clnistion on that for which ha pays rent." .